Friday, 28 March 2014

A special man left us on the coat-tails of a cyclone..

Friend, Father and Husband, Wayne (Dolphin) caught the coat-tails of a cyclone and now is surfing the thermals as well as the surf and sea which was always the element he loved. He lived his life well. Dolphin is missed.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

And the rough weather is over

I think we must have been lucky in this small part of the country. Towns only 20km away had power cuts. ALL the water tanks were refilled in one night (Friday) and I'm happy I worked a little bit on the one shrub border I'm creating and putting the stones out ready for spreading - all lot more to do though but now I'm confident it's worth doing the pathways in these stones. Luckily the quarry is only 20km away.

It got very stormy on Saturday as the cyclone passed across this part of the country - beans got flattened as did all the flowering tubs but a small price to pay for so much rain. I knew the trees could withstand the conditions - they have already for years; nonetheless one still wonders. I kept looking at the small avocado trees and wondering if there would be any left...it was like this all day long until late evening Saturday..uff.

Friday, 14 March 2014

The calm before the storm

Literally. We've been getting warnings from the Met. Office about high winds and heavy rain for some days. It's been a while I'm sure since we've had one of these but I can remember a few - it's part of being in a sub-tropical climate. I've not been in this house before during what could be a wild weekend and I'm certainly pleased I've had the roof fixed!

 Poached these from the local newspaper, showing Auckland city this morning. Remember the school rhyme? 'Red sky at night, shepherd's delight; red sky in morning, shepherd's warning'. Looks like we could be in for it..
Looking out the window this morning I'm aware of what I'd like to get finished before the rains come. First thing I'm aware of is how calm and still it is; here that's unusual as we have a constant air - flow that varies in strength (South westerlies) which is why there are some huge trees along one border. It's quite strange..overcast but with a weak sun somewhere behind the clouds giving a hazy light. All this may not be as bad as some are suggestion so we'll see.

Using this weather pattern as a focus I was out all day yesterday buying stones for pathways and wood chips. The problem I've bought 'way too much wood mulch and not sure what I can do with it in time. i have visions of a whirlwind of sawdust and wood chips flying all over the place! So, once coffee has been consumed I'll be out there. Believe it or not that seemingly small amount of stone weighs just over 600kg! A second load after this is just under..

Didn't have the time to spread these yesterday so dumped them for me to do today. looks very messy; i know in time this will look great just hard to see that right now.

This really needs more work - the West side of the house and it gets the full blast of wind plus rain as the prevailing winds power across a shallow valley. Blasted is a garden term that can be used to describe this path. Maybe in the next few weeks I'll find the time to lay more.

Far too much of the stuff.  I left a small trail of it along the highway from the timber mill to here. Not very far to drive and thankfully no-one was behind me - especially cops! Think I'll drive it to the far end of the garden and try and protect it over the weekend.

This is where it will be going so..time for work.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Struggling uff...

Today I had the best intentions to continue with developing the garden. Hmm..still very hot and we all know we are in a drought - it's worse than last year but they're holding off declaring it officially; we've a warning that we will get the tail end of Cyclone Lusi this weekend with very heavy rain and gales..maybe up to and over 100km.

Went outside this morning to try and avoid the heat but had to come inside at 10am -24-26C and building. Wouldn't have been so bad had the soil been other than concrete so I couldn't hammer the stakes into the ground for the edging. I managed to finish a few important ones, as in those parts where the soil will wash away: part of the garden is on a slope and especially with the soil being so hard, heavy rain will just wash off and take the mulch with it and wash it off. I've come to the decision to let the rest of the garden go for a while. Once we're headed to winter and the rain (I hope) will have softened the soil I'll be removing the huge weeds and removing some other bushes. I noticed the orange trees have some new fruit so I need to prune those pretty soon to make them healthier. don't think they've been touched for a while which explains why one tree had such small fruit. Apart from one patch, the beans are over and I think I'll take all the rest of the tomatoes out. The garden has had more than it's fair share of attention and it's just taking too many hours each day. the irrigation tanks are empty and I used the house water tank last week which is not a good idea. And I prefer to keep on top of other projects I have on the go not the least of which is a new washroom and toilet.

 The current pantry will be made into a guest washroom, a spare area will be made into a smaller pantry; I want to paint and decorate another bedroom if I can before Winter. I'm also organising  a new wood burning fire and that is due to be delivered this week sometime

Once the shelves are removed there will be wall-to-wall cabinets with  a bench top and a basin that will sit on top and to one side; a toilet will be fitted on an opposite wall. Fortunately this end of the house is elevated, so the plumber can get access underneath the house to install new pipe work. Once this is finished the only major work to be done will be to build an en-suite to the main bedroom - that's a big task so I think towards the end of this year might be the best time.

Friday, 7 March 2014

This is my challenge today

OK..so we're in the SIXTH month of hot weather - I've not known anything like it. Of course the days are wonderful as long as you can sit with a glass of wine and dream the day away..

I need desperately to plant some shrubs; bought them as mentioned before as all gardeners tend to do: on impulse. There again my intent is to get them in so that by the time they have over-wintered they'll be just right for next Summer, larger and stronger.
 This was all lawn. On the left against the fence is Michelia 'Inspiration'. Been watering the things all Summer but the last 2 months they've shown new growth which means the roots are ext5ending. In 2  or 3 years these will be almost 2 metres tall. Evergreen and covered in scented white flowers they are one of the best hedges.

A right mess. the soil is like dust but finally got out into the heat - officially Autumn and 26C - and laid the weed mat. The next picture shows how weeds have grown in a few weeks...

And they're tough weeds. That bunch of plants to the right are all weeds. Off to buy some mulch over the next few days then I'm going to edge the border with timber lengths. When the rains do come it's often heavy and the edges can get washed away. And blackbirds love to scruff around looking for insects. Hopefully the wooden edging will limit that - be a bit tidier as well. The goal behind doing this part now is to bed them in before Winter so that next year when they come out of the 'hibernation' state, they'll be strong and should become the start of far larger shrubs.

The main shrubs in the majority are: Viburnums,  Hydrangeas and a new carpet rose called 'Amber'. Detail names are:

Viburnum Plicatum Mariesii
Hydrangea Paniculata
Miscanthus Sinensis Morning Light
Hydrangea Quercifolia 'Pee Wee'
Cornus Alba Sibirica
Philadelphus 'Frosty Morn'
Hydrangea Waterfall
Hydrangea Grandiflora
Michelias Inspiration and Fairy Cream. Other shrubs/plants are Zantedeschia Hot Blooded,
Scilla Peruviana, Sisyrinchium Angustifolium, Clematis Heracleifolia, 2 true Geranium's 'Johnson's Blue and Sanguineum.  'Amber' carpet rose; Weigela (white) Echinacea, Lobelia (Fan Blue) and one wine red - the label said Stokesia and that it ain't. Have planted a Prunus Campanulata further back in the lawn and Magnolia Denudata in one far corner. I'm hoping the latter will give some definition to the land I have. I've just bought a Robinia to put in the lawn which I need to plant soon. The whole idea in all of this is to return the garden to just that. So the rationale behind planting the Michelia hedge is to separate what is the vegetable garden from everything else. The 'garden' as a whole was made into a food-producing environment and many shrubs were removed e.g Camellia's to do this. And, crazily Banana plants were planted randomly. Assuming the bananas are edible they 'flower' once only but increase in size at a huge rate and leach all the nutrients out of the soil. Getting rid of them is a nightmare as they have rhizomes as a root system and these have to be broken down. Nightmare.

FOOD: A quick aside. Cooked these for some friends and myself yesterday. Not sure how to use figs as they're so delicious fresh..discovered a way of keeping them using a recipe found here:


 My spin: Slice figs in half; put raw sugar according to taste and heat until dissolved. Add the figs halves with slices of lime - lemons will do - and then add sloshes of Malibu or coconut liqueur . Bring to a strong simmer until the halves have softened and the sugar has caramelized - if the figs look too soft take them out and reduce the syrup and then replace them. I used Malibu only as I'd used limes - I wanted a tropical taste; brandy can do just as well or even a fruit schnaps. Eat them with thick Greek yoghourt or if you have enough put them into sterilized jars, with syrup if any left and top up with brandy. Have them in Winter when it's cooooold outside.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” (Dame Edith Sitwell)

It never fails to intrigue me how Summer seems to go in a heartbeat: every year we have outrageous heat seemingly worse for being yet another month of it. Then the rain comes for a day or two and we welcome the moisture; it ends and suddenly Autumn is knocking on the door. The days are still hot and sunny but the mornings and evenings though have a freshness and chill that weren't here last week. Now I'm looking at bringing wood from the shed ready for the Winter fires.

Reading at the quote from Edith Sitwell (an eccentric and  poetess), some thoughts occur to me. Few - if any -even know who she was and secondly probably don't care. To say she was an eccentric is a term that is rarely used today and even less understood. Eccentricity is as much about being an individual and being happy with oneself; one look at a picture of her shows she had little regard for 'fitting in'.


She chose her own way of life and who she chose to be around. Eccentricity in people is what adds colour to our lives I believe, especially in an age where trivia appears to be paramount, be it docu-drama TV shows or mind-numbing marketing from somebody trying to sell us things we don't need. Or how some prefer to communicate by Twitter or Facebook and not face-to-face. I miss larger-than-life people although of course they still exist - I just need to find them. My mind thrives on stimulation and I don't need Facebook to connect with my friends.

 Edit Sitwell's phrase encapsulates my thinking the last few days. I'm still harvesting food from the garden and to be honest up until now it's a chore. I know it's of value and it will be good to have during Winter but it's hard work. When I worked in the city my days were determined by my work. Winter was an irritation due to the weather; Summer was lost sitting inside an air-conditioned office.

Now things are different and I welcome them. Seeing this phrase from Edith Sitwell fits well with me. My everyday life now is increasingly determined very much by the Seasons. I plant, I water, I tend; I create I harvest and I prepare for Winter and as I preserve or freeze food I think of the colder days ahead and imagine the wood fire that keeps me warm as I look at the wild weather outside. I can drive to the beach at a moment's notice and revel in clear water and few if anyone is there as well.

I watch the new plants I've bought hoping they will last until the next big rains come as this means they will survive and soon the garden will develop and grow as all gardens should. It's Nature's way. and like Nature and all things that grow I will hibernate this Winter until the warmth comes again creates a new cycle of activity. Friends will visit during Winter and embrace to calming comfort and warmth this home offers. I love it.